You''ve had a rest from me while we have been enjoying the sights and tastes of southern France. But the world has been busy. First there was a release of hitherto secret details from al-Jazeera on Israeli-Palestinian discussions, then the publication of Ehud Olmert''s memoirs, and then the spread of upsets to the most worrisome case of Egypt.
Our local dust is settling. We are close to where we were before al-Jazeera leaked those documents.
A right of center commentator said initially that reports of Palestinan concessions were frauds perpetrated by Arab opponents of both Israel and the Abbas "group." (It is not strong enough to label a "regime.")
According to this view, the concessions supposedly made by the Palestinians were actually suggestions by Israelis that were rejected by Palestinians.
A more moderate view, expressed in a New York Times article, is that the disclosures--true or not--will make it more difficult for the Palestinians to show any flexibility. That may be even more true in the light of what began in Tunis, and spread to Egypt and elsewhere.
Olmert''s memoirs had a few moments in the media. Like all memoirs, they are self serving, especially in this case of an author being tried for several varieties of corruption.
Olmert put the emphasis on Palestinians'' indecisiveness, and their inability to accept the major Israeli settlements of Ariel and Maale Adumim, or the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa. Also, he indicates that there was a gap of at least 20 times in the number of refugees he was willing to accept and what Abbas defined as his minimum.
Then events elsewhere eclipsed our little corner of the region.
What is happening in Lebanon, Egypt, and Tumis may be significant. Together with what is continuing in Iraq, Afghaniistan, Pakistan and Iran they make me wonder why people are concerned about our low level tensions and minimum carnage.
Latest polls show the Israeli public supporting negotiations, but with a substantial majority doubtful that Palestinians are willing to live at peace alongside them.
Egypt is tottering, Lebanon is closer than usual to crisis, there is no resolution for Tunis, and there are rumblings in Jordan and Yemen. But The Economist can call on Barack Obama to pressure Israel, certain that concessions will help the region and the world, even if a few other problems will remain.
One CNN headline: Tanks roll into Egyptian cities
Next headline: Obama urges Mubarak to avoid violence against demonstrators
Perhaps another Cairo speech would help.
One can hope that key personnel in the Obama White House--including the President himself--are less naive than their comments suggest. The American task is difficult in the extreme. It wants to maintain influence in a country that is crucially important, while the president who has been its ally is the target of regime-shaking protests.
Hillary Clinton''s comments about democracy and the rights of peaceful demonstration may appeal to the left wing of the American Democratic Party, but sound pathetic to anyone who has spent more than five minutes in the Middle East.
Egypt''s commotion could blow over like Tiananmen Square, produce something like the Islamist regime in Iran, or lead to one or another kind of change after Communism like Poland, Hungary, Russia, or Belarus. The range of possibilities is considerable.
The latest news is that the Egyptian regime is fighting back. It is too early to bet a lot on a winner, but it would be naive to discount the power of an authoritarian president and those who depend on him. The civics lessons heard from Barack Obama echoed by other western politicians and commentators (with the notable exception of some Israelis) may accomplish nothing more than provide yet more indications that the good folks do not comprehend the Middle East whose future they aspire to direct. George W. Bush flubbed from the right, and Barack Obama from the left. Both seem more governed by ideology and hope than by reliance on analysts who know the limits of reality.
The Tel Aviv Stock Market dropped more than three percent on the first business day this week, but stabilized on the second day.
In our part of the Middle East, a Good Government group sued to block the appointment of the designated Chief of the IDF General Staff on account of property dealings somewhat less than glat kosher done years ago when he was a Lt Colonel. Senior officials took another look at the details, and produced a situation where government lawyers decided who could not lead the military.
The day after the Prime minister and Defense Minister announced that their nominee could not serve, the newspaper with the largest circulation emphasized the details and commentary. Israelis concerned about Egypt had to satisfy themselves with a scowling picture of Husni Mubarek on the bottom of page one, and then skip to page 15 for more.
We are where we are. No need at the present to revise our maps.
Our neighbors may be revising their civics texts, if there are such things in Arabic.